This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily radings along with a headline from world news:
“Followers of Christ” found guilty of death of baby by faith-healing instead of medical treatment.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
10I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.’ 8We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
Paul uses the stories of the Exodus and the forty years in the desert to provide a model for the experience of the churches of Christ. The Israelites he says had been baptised in the Red Sea, and given the sacramental food and drink of Manna and Water from the Rock, but they worshipped idols, engaged in sexual immorality, complained against God and tested God’s patience. For these reasons, Paul says, many of them died. So be warned!
He uses a beautiful expression, “we upon whom the ends of the ages have come” meaning that the arcs of history are closing on them: they are living in the last time. These times he says may be especially testing but God will lead his people out in a new and greater Exodus.
Here we see Paul the Rabbi using his knowledge of the Torah to produce an interpretation which will be meaningful to his converts. Jewish scripture remains holy for him but receives a new lease of life through Christ. The theme of testing is used to remind believers that God may “test” them but they should be careful not to “test” God. (The story of Jesus’ temptations shows him being tested but refusing to put God to the test.)
18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19A scribe then approached and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ 20And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 21Another of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 22But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ 26And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. 27They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’
The urgency and ruthlessness of Jesus’ call to discipleship is a sign that the Kingdom, the Rule of God, involves a radical break with “normal living.” Disciples are wrenched from safety, family and even from duty to the dead to take part in his movement. We would instantly label such a movement as a dangerous cult, denouncing its influence on young people, describing its methods as brainwashing. We need to see this aspect of the Jesus’ community so that we can understand the opposition it aroused. The disciples must have been uncomfortably aware of the capacity of Jesus to arouse storms of hatred and opposition.
The story of the stilling of the storm (whatever its origin) is a parable of the life of discipleship. The ship of faith runs into savage storms. Jesus is sleeping or maybe dead. (He is crucified) But he “gets up” to rebuke the waves and calm the storm. (He is resurrected) Who is he? He is the One who shares the power of God to halt the waters of chaos. (Job 38)
To ask whether any of this happened (on a particular boat on Lake Galilee) is to miss its meaning and its power: it happens now and always in the lives of Jesus’ disciples.